Crime Reports Don’t Reflect Violent Crime Near 6 Chicago Universities - NBC Chicago
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Crime Reports Don’t Reflect Violent Crime Near 6 Chicago Universities

Most U.S. colleges and universities are required to report violent crime each year to the U.S. Department of Education, but NBC 5 Investigates finds violent crime near campus goes unreported due to reporting guidelines

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    Most U.S. colleges and universities are required to report violent crime each year to the U.S. Department of Education, but NBC 5 Investigates finds violent crime near campus goes unreported due to reporting guidelines. NBC 5's Tammy Leitner reports. (Published Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016)

    Note: Here is a breakdown of the methodology behind our data.

    On a Friday night in December of 2014, Mutahir Rauf was walking with his brother near Loyola University when two men walked up, showed a gun and tried to rob him. The 23-year-old, who was studying at Loyola to be a doctor, tried to grab the gun.

    Rauf was fatally shot, just one block from Loyola’s main Lakeshore campus.

    “Once I saw the tape going up and traffic being redirected I knew something serious had happened,” Loyola student Ingrid Heider said.

    “I don’t think any of us could have ever imagined it would happen to anyone so close, let alone one of our students,” Heider said. “It was very shocking.”

    Loyola University sent out crime alerts on the murder and posted investigation updates online. Loyola officials held a prayer vigil in Rauf’s honor. A memorial still remains, more than a year later.

    “It really could have happened to anyone,” Heider said.

    Yet according to the official crime report Loyola University is required to file each year with the federal government, Rauf’s murder did not happen.

    “The crime occurred near Albion and Lakewood, which per the Clery Act, is not within the university’s reportable geographical boundaries,” said a Loyola University spokesman. “Thus, the Clery Act prohibits us from including that crime in the annual safety bulletin.”

    Most every U.S. college or university is required to report violent crime each year to the U.S. Department of Education, as part of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act – known more often as the “Clery Act.”

    This was named in honor of Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986 by a fellow student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Her parents, Connie and Howard Clery, came to believe that campus crime statistics were going unreported or under-reported, and they successfully passed a law in their daughter’s memory, requiring that any college that gets certain kinds of federal aid must make a full report of crimes on campus every year.

    As a result, parents and students can now easily look up a university’s crime reports online, and even compare prospective colleges’ histories of violent crimes -- like murder, rape, assault, and stalking -- and where they happened: on campus, in campus housing, and in other locations defined by the Act.

    This information can serve as a key factor for many high school seniors and their families, especially this time of year, as students focus in on college decisions.

    But NBC 5 Investigates looked at the Clery reports for six universities in Chicago and found that their reports vastly understate the levels of violent crimes occurring in and around the schools, because they ignore many crimes that occur in the immediate neighborhoods around the campuses – crimes like Mutahir Rauf’s murder, which occurred right across the street from the school he attended.

    Loyola’s Clery report for crimes on campus, off campus and in public places all record the number of homicides or deaths in 2014 as “zero” – in essence, ignoring Rauf’s death.

    “Under the Clery Act we are obligated to include crime in our daily log, which did occur and was available online for the mandatory amount of time, as required by the Clery Act,” said a Loyola University spokesman.

    NBC 5 Investigates compared the reports for the six Chicago universities to campus crime logs and Chicago police reports – going out two blocks from campus - since many students live, work and socialize in the surrounding neighborhood.

    By expanding the area to include a two-block radius surrounding Loyola’s campus, we found a total of 84 reports of violent crime – nearly four times what Loyola reported.

    For example, where Loyola reported two robberies, we found 19. Where Loyola reported five instances of aggravated assault, we found 16. And where Loyola reported one instance where someone was arrested for carrying a weapon, we found 22 crimes involving weapons. Eleven of those weapons incidents involved handguns – all within a two-block walk of Loyola, and one of those resulting in the death of Mutahir Rauf.

    But Loyola is not alone. At DePaul University’s main campus in upscale Lincoln Park, we found more than three times the numbers of violent crimes reported to Clery, including 79 burglaries within a two-block area (compared to DePaul’s report of 11 burglaries). We found 25 incidents involving handguns. And where DePaul reported a total of sixty violent crimes last year, we found a total of 187.

    “Federal law requires that DePaul’s annual security report only include Clery-reportable crimes,” said a DePaul spokesperson. “This means that the annual security report will only include crimes that occur with Clery-reportable geography and will only include crimes that fall within specifically defined crime categories.”

    The University of Chicago reported a total of 64 violent crimes in 2014. We found more than three times that number – 233 – on-campus and within a two-block walk of the school. Where U. of C. reported three aggravated assaults, we found a total of 31. Where U. of C. reported three arrests for weapons, we found a total of 58 crimes involving weapons, and half of those involved firearms.

    “I’m not surprised,” said Anoushka Chowdhary, a student at the University of Chicago. “Students know this. We are told to stay within the campus community.”

    The Illinois Institute of Technology logged 38 violent crimes in its 2014 Clery report. We found a staggering seven times that amount – including two kidnappings – by going just two blocks out: Two hundred and ninety-two violent crimes last year, including the shooting death of an aspiring artist (not an IIT student) a block and a half from the IIT campus and two stranger-related kidnappings (which colleges don’t have to report to Clery at all).

    “The safety of our students, faculty and staff is a top priority at Illinois Tech,” said a university spokesman. “Illinois Institute of Technology reports any crime that has occurred on any of our campuses in the Clery Report, as required by law. Off campus criminal activity in the surrounding neighborhoods is reported and handled by the Chicago Police Department.”

    Which means that serious, violent crimes that happen just off campus are usually not counted -- like the sexual assault of pregnant nursing student, just blocks from Chicago State University’s campus, in the fall of 2014.

    “She was putting some books in her car in the trunk and the guy walked up behind her at knifepoint.”

    CSU reported 12 incidents of violent crime that year. We found 236 incidents within two blocks, nearly 20 times the university’s number.

    All of the universities tell NBC 5 Investigates that they report what is required under the Clery Law.

    “Most institutions that participate in the Title IV, Federal Student Aid programs are in substantial compliance with the Clery Act,” said a Department of Education spokesperson. “Of course, the Department encourages institutions to exceed minimal requirements and to provide the safest possible environment for students, employees, and the wider campus community.”

    The Department of Education also tells us they monitor and audit schools for compliance with the law.

    “It’s quite complicated,” said Mike Webster, director of Regulatory Compliance with Margolis Healy, a consulting firm which advises colleges on what crimes must be reported under the Clery Act.

    The 300-plus page Clery handbook is supposed to help universities decipher the law.

    “More of our clients are trying to do a good job. It’s just the complexity is overwhelming,” he said.

    Boundaries aside, we found the University of Illinois Chicago consistently underreported crimes in 2014 which happened directly on campus: Nine aggravated assaults versus 17, for example. UIC reported 13 robberies on campus, but NBC 5 Investigates found 19. UIC reported six motor vehicle thefts on campus, but NBC5 Investigates found 29.

    UIC provided us with this statement: “Discrepancy with crime report totals from other sources may be due to differences in federal crime definitions (used by Clery) and the state crime definitions… differences in how different law enforcement agencies tally crimes.. or precise location of crimes.”

    And that often leaves students and parents to wonder if they are getting the whole picture, concerning just how safe a college campus may be.

    “It concerns me because I think these types of incidents should be reported,” said DePaul University student Ingrid Heider.

    MAPS:

    Loyola University

    University of Chicago

    Illinois Institute of Technology

    Depaul University

    University of Illinois at Chicago

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